NBA Rookie of the Year is usually a tight race, and this year is no different. The two clear-cut candidates are the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, hailing from Slovenia, and the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young. Only three international players have won Rookie of the Year: Pau Gasol (2001-02), Andrew Wiggins (2014-15) and Ben Simmons (2017-18).
The race is so close that some are calling for Doncic and Young to be named co-Rookies of the Year. It’s hard to argue with that when you compare their achievements: Luka Doncic is averaging 21.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 7.7 RPG. He’s notched eight 30+ point games this season. Aside from scoring, he’s recorded seven triple doubles, and 17 double-doubles.
Meanwhile, Trae Young has been having a stellar second-half of the season since the All-Star break. His transition to the NBA took longer than Doncic, but Young is finally receiving the respect that he had when he was at Oklahoma. This season, Young is averaging 19.1 PPG, 8.0 APG, and 3.7 RPG. His numbers may be less than Doncic, but he has been a closer for the Hawks over these past few months.
Doncic received a lot of American attention during the 2018 NBA Draft, despite there being a host of collegiate superstars already entered, including first-overall pick DeAndre Ayton, as well as former Duke stars Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, Jr. Despite this, Doncic was chosen third overall. The true irony of the 2018 NBA Draft is the trade between the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks. Once Luka was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, he was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks, as the Mavericks picked Trae Young. Would their careers still be the same if Luka was in Atlanta and Trae in Dallas?
Averaging over 30 minutes per game, Doncic has proved why he’s the best on his team and the best rookie in the league. He leads the Mavericks in points, assists, field goal attempts and free throw attempts per game. But amongst the other dominating rookies of the NBA, he’s on the best team out of them. Trae Young’s Hawks have 29 wins, Deandre Ayton’s Suns have 19 and Kevin Knox’s Knicks have 15, but the Mavericks have 31. This is an individual award, but winning must be taken into account. Plus, Doncic is quickly becoming the face of the NBA. Luka Doncic was third in the NBA All-Star Game fan voting with 4.2 million votes, behind LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But the fight for the rookie title is not over. Doncic has been consistently great the entire NBA season, but Trae Young iis drawing attention from the media and other NBA superstars. Young’s recent string of game winners has played a huge role in his push for the Rookie of the Year title. Previous Rookie of the Year contenders, such as Donovan Mitchell, have tweeted in support of Trae Young’s Rookie of the Year campaign..
This year could be the first year that the NBA has a foreign Most Valuable Player and a foreign Rookie of the Year. The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is pushing for the MVP title, and Luka Doncic is in the lead for the Rookie of the Year award. You can see who will come home with the hardware at the NBA Awards Show on June 24.